eBay has eye on Southeast Asia

Upbeat about regional prospects, online auctioneer increases business activities to tap e-commerce opportunities in Southeast Asia markets.
Written by Isabelle Chan, Contributor

eBay is gearing up for more e-tailing action in Southeast Asia.

Sam McDonagh, director of eBay Southeast Asia, told ZDNet Asia in an interview: "We're very optimistic about the growth of the market, and it is not just Singapore but the Southeast Asia region."

eBay currently operates three full-fledged sites, where members can buy and sell online, in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as what it calls "promotional sites" which have no trading functions in emerging markets like Vietnam.

The online auction service company has been busy these past months, engaging in activities to shore up its position in the region. These include a tie-up with the recently held Singapore Fashion Week, where it created a microsite offering eBay's 240 million members worldwide a window into Singapore fashion, and a partnership with Singapore operator M1 to make the online marketplace easily accessible on mobile phones.

Even though using mobile devices to conduct e-commerce is still at the "early stages in Asia or other parts of the world", McDonagh said "mobile is very important to eBay in the near and medium term".

"The great thing about mobile is it provides folks with busy lifestyles a convenient way to buy and sell while they are on the go. As technology continues to evolve, the ability to transact over the mobile phones will improve," he added.

Other partnerships in the region include a co-branded site between eBay and Thailand's online portal Sanook, to enable individuals and businesses to participate in local and cross-border trade through eBay's global Web sites.

According to eBay, the current version of eBay.co.th will be shut down as soon as the co-branded Web site is launched in December 2007. Traffic will be re-directed and information currently on eBay.co.th will also be incorporated into the new co-branded Web site.

Unlike eBay's full-fledged Singapore, Malaysia and Philippine sites, the current eBay.co.th platform is a promotional site which was launched in June 2006. "Promotional sites represent a window on the eBay marketplace. You can browse, but you can't buy or sell," McDonagh explained.

eBay also has its eye on Vietnam and Indonesia, but these local sites are merely promotional sites due largely to online payment restrictions in those countries, McDonagh said.

Although eBay has kept a strong local appeal in its Southeast Asia marketplaces, McDonagh said, eBay's value proposition is its global member base.

"It's not just a domestic proposition," McDonagh said. "Our sellers sell to the world."

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